Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 8, 2010

Foodie With Family: Team Couch Potato

This spud's for you

By REBECCA LINDAMOOD

There is very little I find more soul-satisfying than cuddling up in a fuzzy blanket on the couch with endless plates of finger foods and hot drinks while watching athletic people exert themselves to the breaking point for pride and nation in sub-zero temperatures.

I realize I will never skate like Apollo Anton Ohno, beat the Russian hockey team in the underdog comeback of a lifetime, or bobsleigh like Gillian Cooke.

For this you should all be grateful because my backside, unlike that of Ms. Cooke, really should not get global attention under any circumstances, wardrobe malfunction or not. I'm a food writer, for Pete's sake. Generally, food writers are not widely known for their firm rears but rather are firmly known for their wide rears.

I, for one, am perfectly OK with that. I say set the fitness bar low and you'll be sure to achieve your goals. Indirectly, my slothful behavior is what makes the Olympics so impressive; thousands of Olympians working harder on perfecting the nuances of skiing, curling, snowboarding and figure skating in one day than I will in my entire lifetime. It is for them that I sit on the couch and eat while they sweat and compete: to make their magnificence even more noticeable. Who's with me?

So let's go Team Couch Potato. Get your spuds in gear. We have some snacks to throw together before the Opening Ceremonies. I'm calling on you all for top form.

Baked Potato Skins will bring out the couch spud in all of us. Use the insides of the potatoes to make delicious Loaded Baked Potato Soup. The recipe for the soup is available at www.foodiewithfamily.com.

Baked Potato Skins

12 baked potatoes, cooled to room temperature

2-3 c. grated cheese (I prefer extra sharp Cheddar, but you can also use Monterey Jack, Colby, Pepper Jack or any combination of those cheeses.)

1/2 lb. bacon

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Additional thinly sliced green onions for topping

Creamy Onion Topping (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut each baked potato into quarters, taking care to keep the skin as intact as possible. Use a regular soup spoon to carefully scrape most of the insides out of each potato quarter into a large bowl, leaving behind a shell of about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch. When you have eviscerated all your potatoes divide your potato shells between two rimmed baking sheets. Use the potato "guts" to make baked potato soup or tightly wrap with plastic wrap, refrigerate and make soup within the next three days.

Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil evenly over the potato shells using about two tablespoons per baking sheet. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the potato shells to taste. Remember that potatoes love salt, so don't skimp here.

Place sheet in the top third of your preheated oven. Set timer for 10 minutes.

While the potato shells are toasting, turn your attention to the bacon. Slice the bacon into 1/2-inch thick strips and slide into a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until the bacon just begins to turn crisp. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Move the drained bacon to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

Remove potato shells from the oven and generously cover with the grated cheese, using about 1&1/2 cups per baking sheet. Scatter the bacon pieces evenly over both sheets and return to the oven. Bake for 6-8 more minutes or until the cheese is melted. If you like your cheese a little on the more toasty side -- and I do -- allow to cook an additional 2 minutes or just until the cheese is beginning to brown on top but is still gooey underneath.

Move baked potato skins to a platter. If desired, garnish with sliced green onions and serve with a bowl filled with the Creamy Onion Topping.

Creamy Onion Topping

2 c. Greek yogurt

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1 t. Kosher salt

Stir Greek yogurt, sliced onions and kosher salt together in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time. Making the Creamy Onion Topping at least an hour ahead of time allows the flavors to blend nicely.

Now it's time for some repetitive exercise. Pick up that cracker and dip it deep into the Pimiento Cheese. Lift. Bite. Repeat. Feel the burn!

Pimiento (Pimento) Cheese

1 (3-oz.) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature

16 ozs. grated Cheddar cheese (I like to use a blend of extra sharp and sharp cheddar.)

1/2 c. mayonnaise

1/2 small onion, grated

2-3 T. pimientos (or roasted red peppers) smashed with juice from the jar.

1/2 t. each granulated garlic, granulated onion, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add the cream cheese, mayonnaise, grated onion, granulated garlic and onion, salt and freshly ground pepper to the work bowl of your food processor that has been fitted with the blade. Pulse until smooth.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the shredded cheddar. Pulse seven or eight short bursts; just until the cheese is mixed into the cream cheese. Scrape down the bowl again and add the pimientos with their juice.

Pulse four or five more short bursts; just until the pimientos are chopped to the point where they are blended in, but still in recognizable pieces. Use a silicone scraper or spatula to transfer the mixture to a serving dish or storage container. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour prior to serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Leftovers can be kept tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to a week.

If you do not have a food processor simply combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir vigorously with a sturdy spoon until thoroughly blended.

Finish off your snack attack with a little something sweet. These chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside cookies have oats, whole wheat flour and raisins. Gee, that makes them practically healthy! Fortunately, you'd never know that to taste them. Don't worry about the length of that ingredient list. These cookies come together in mere minutes. Eat those cookies, athlete!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1&1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1&1/4 c. of packed light brown sugar

3 T. molasses

3/4 t. baking soda

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1&1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. grated nutmeg

1/4 t. ground ginger

1 T. cider vinegar

1 T. real vanilla extract

1 large egg

1&1/3 c. rolled oats (not instant!)

11/4 c. white whole wheat flour

11/2 c. raisins

Cream together the butter, sugar, molasses, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cider vinegar and vanilla extract. Beat the egg into the liquids. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the mixture is evenly moist. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. (If you don't have either of those, lightly grease your baking sheets.)

Scoop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared sheets, leaving between two and three inches space around them to allow the cookies to spread. Bake the cookies, rotating pans midway through the cooking time, for 14 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan just long enough for them to hold together, about 3 minutes. When you can move them without breaking them, transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.

For a heartier helping of Foodie With Family, go to www.foodiewithfamily.com or Rebecca's new blog, www.icouldeatthat.com. Write to Rebecca at rebecca@foodiewithfamily.com to share your adventures and favorite recipes. For more of Rebecca's Record-Eagle columns, log on to record-eagle.com/rebeccalindamood.

Clearing the Record

1&1/4 c. of packed light brown sugar was originally omitted from the recipe above for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. The entire recipe is scheduled to be reprinted in the Feb. 15 Food section.